Ideas To Disrupt Your Talent Strategy

By Paul Cortissoz

Ideas To Disrupt Your Talent Strategy

I need to make a confession. I am a “HR trends addict”.

What usually fuels my addiction are studies like the Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report and the Mercer Talent Trends Study. I am intrigued by what executives and HR professionals believe are their current and future priorities. I am fascinated by the analytics, trends and insights. I am inspired by some of the innovative ideas presented.

Is Your Talent Strategy Aligned With Your Business Imperatives?

I suppose like all addictions it is a bit of a “love-hate” thing as well.

Much to my chagrin, every year there is a prominent insight in one form or an other at the front section of every report that goes something like this…..executives do not believe in some aspect that their HR function is keeping up with their business imperatives.

Take for example the 2017 Mercer Talent Trends Study:

“93% of executives surveyed stated they plan to make significant organizational design changes in the next 2 years yet only 11% of HR professionals stated that redesigning jobs is a priority.” 

Here is another insight from the 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report. For the past 5 years they have been tracking how well executives believe their HR function can address the talent issues around them in what they call the “HR Scorecard”.  2015 was a grade C. 2016 a C+. 2017 a C.

There could be many reasons how we can try to rationalize the data.

Perhaps you believe your HR function would receive a better score from your senior leadership team than the results presented in the reports. Perhaps HR professionals are their own worst critics. Perhaps we have a higher expectation of what we could be delivering as a function if we only had…(time, resources, systems, data etc.). Perhaps respondents had more short-term imperatives that had their share of mind when completing these surveys. Perhaps you believe our organization is not ready such levels of change yet.

All these things may be true, however we can’t rationalize away it away either.

One thing is for sure. How organizations are designed, how work is performed and how talent is managed are the most important people related trends from both reports.

The time for alignment and execution is now.

The HR Identity Change

Deloitte’s conclusion was that HR is in the middle of a an identity change as they are being asked to step up to the realities of a rapidly changing work environment.

This is a topic I wrote about before the report earlier this year in an article entitled Your 2017 HR Strategy May Involve A Reduction In Headcount. HR Departments need to organize around, and focus on, what I call the “Big 3” – Talent, Leadership & Culture.

Whether is be due to the impact of a competitive labor market, changing demographics, the digital revolution, artificial intelligence, increased competition, geo-political uncertainty or the global economy – we live in a rapidly changing world.

At minimum, traditional talent practices need to be rethought to adapt to these new realities. Some may need to be disrupted.

There are also a lot of promising developments.

The Mercer Talent Trends Study discusses how vertical hierarchies are being replaced by simpler more horizontal ones resulting in increased efficiency, lower costs, closer relationships with customers and greater innovation. Different industries are doing it in different ways to reflect the current and future business realities. The Auto, Energy and Healthcare industries are flattening. The Financial Services industry is moving from support functions to shared services. The Consumer Product Goods industry are creating special units for project based work.

Leading companies are responding to this new reality, and HR is playing a key role in redefining how work is performed and how talent is managed as a strategic advantage within them.

The Implications For Talent Management

“I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”

Elon Musk

How your organization is structured today, or needs to be structured to remain competitive in the future, is integral to your talent strategy.

Gone are the days of conducting talent discussions infrequently, for example at year-end in conjunction with your Performance Management process.

Long gone are the days of only identifying your high potentials and paying special attention to them throughout the year.

Long, long gone are the days of succession and development planning as a standalone practice.

To be successful in the new economy organizations must be built for speed, agility and adaptability. Traditional hierarchies are being flattened and being replaced with a more flexible teams model. Functional teams are being replaced with cross-functional teams that are customer, project or business problem focused that can be quickly disbanded and rapidly deployed.

There are many innovative ideas out there on how to adapt to this new reality. Instead of trying to build an exhaustive list of all these best practices, I will focus on what I think are the 3 main pillars of a successful talent strategy in the future.

Your talent management practices must follow the ABC model to be successful.

The implications are wide and deep in every aspect of the talent lifecycle.

It will impact your company values. To be successful your organization will need to value, model and reward behaviors like adaptability, collaboration, transparency, total company mindset and innovation to name a few.

It will impact the type of talent you need to attract and your Employer Value Proposition (EVP). Your talent acquisition team, and even more importantly your hiring managers, will need to think about external talent in a new way. Less important will be the plug & play desire by hiring managers to “just find someone” who can do the immediate requirements of the job. Critical to attracting this new type of talent will be a strong and credible EVP that can differentiate your organization by offering new and different types of career paths.

It will impact how you define and calibrate performance and potential. Discussing potential will need to shift away from how long until they are ready to assume the next vertical position or how many levels you believe they can move up in the organization. The new definition of potential will include things like mobility, dealing with ambiguity, managing complexity and rapid learning ability.

It will impact how you think about succession planning. Succession planning will be need to be more cross-functional than it is in most organizations today. It will also necessitate moving away from using an org chart as a roadmap to career growth. It will need to on the fewer critical positions or project teams that drive business performance, and ensuring you have your “A” players in these “A positions”.  It will also mean thinking of your top talent as a talent pool that can be flexibly deployed.

It will impact what you expect of your leaders and how you develop them. Leaders of the near future will need to have an organizational mindset than a functional or territorial one. They will also have to be rewarded for it to a much higher degree than most are today, at all levels. Leaders will also need to be adept in getting work done across your organization.

It will impact how you retain and development plan for your people, especially your top talent. Organizations will need to map and clearly communicate how what may be perceived as an asymmetrical career path can lead to bigger and better opportunities in the organization. Paramount to your employees taking these perceived “risks” will be to make it safe and reward them for doing so.

It will impact the frequency of talent discussions and the metrics you use to track the performance of your strategy. The shift will be from individual talent metrics to business strategy and team performance talent metrics. It will also be more Business Intelligence driven than HR driven. It certainly will be a standing item on any strategic business review meeting at the senior level.

Tomorrow Starts Today

The trends presented here may seem like a long way away. It’s not as far away as you think.

Take the rise of social media and growth of Facebook as an example. In January 2007 there were about 12 million users. In January 2010 about 400 million. January 2013 just over 1 billion and as of the beginning of 2017 close to 2 billion. Change today is exponential.

Coming back to the Mercer study, 93% of executives are planning significant organizational change in the next 2 years. The future will be here before you know it.

This may seem daunting but you can’t let that stop you.

Experiment with new approaches as pilot programs and learn from your experiences. But start now. 2 years from now will be too late given the change management required.

Tomorrow starts today.

The only thing that I can say is certain in the future for me personally is that I will still be a “HR trends addict” in 2019.

Here’s hoping HR get’s an A+.

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About the Author

Paul Cortissoz, CEO & founding partner of HR Soul has decades of senior level corporate HR experience in leading global organizations. Learn more about Paul Cortissoz's professional expertise and accomplishments.